2018 Sage Award

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“Changes to Undergraduate Students’ Attitudes to Learning About Leadership, Religion, and Spirituality”: Winner of 2018 Most Publishable Leadership Education Paper Award


Joanna JonesJoanna Jones is studying communications at University of Maryland, College Park. She plans to graduate in 2019 and pursue a career in communications and public relations.

Stuart Allen (Professor of Organizational Leadership at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh) and Peter Williams (Professor of Leadership, teaching in the EdD Organizational Leadership program at ACU Dallas) have been named this year’s Most Publishable Leadership Education Paper Award winners. They will present their paper, "Changes to Undergraduate Students’ Attitudes to Learning about Leadership, Religion, and Spirituality,” at ILA’s 20th anniversary global conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity in West Palm Beach, Florida this October. The abstract is available below. 

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Congratulations to @DrStuartAllen ‏and @pewilliams winners of ILA's 2018 Most Publishable Leadership Education Paper Award sponsored by @SAGE_News. They'll be presenting their paper at #ILA2018WPB this October. Learn more at: https://intersections.ilamembers.org/2018-sage-award.

The award,
sponsored by SAGE Publishing, will be presented at the third annual Leadership Education Member Interest Group luncheon on Thursday, 25 October at 13:30. Tickets and more information are available online. In addition to recognizing this year’s winners, participants will have an opportunity to dine together and casually discuss ideas and experiences about the art and science of teaching leadership.

“SAGE is honored to sponsor the ‘Most Publishable Leadership Education Paper’ award, which provides travel grants for the winners so they can attend this year’s global conference in West Palm Beach,” shared Acquisitions Editor Maggie Stanley. “We firmly believe in the Leadership Education Member Interest Group’s mission to advance leadership education around the globe for the greater good.”

The winning paper focuses on leadership, religion, and spirituality and how leaders handle the issue of religion and spirituality in the workplace. Allen and Williams both felt that this was a controversial topic that “needed some attention.” When asked about the impetus for the project, Allen and Williams noted that, “while there are examples of professors who have taught classes or lessons on this topic, we did not see any systematic, experimental studies that had looked closely at the methods of teaching or outcomes.” This lack of information is what promoted the two to take on the project. They both saw the need to “do more.”

“As with most countries, the majority of people in the United States are still religious or spiritual,” Allen and Williams pointed out. “People bring their beliefs or worldview with them to work and to their leadership.” But, because religion and spirituality are sometimes “taboo” topics at work, they are often something that leadership educators fail to consider. “This does not help real leaders prepare to work effectively with people of other faiths or to understand how their beliefs and practices fit into their leadership,” said Allen and Williams.

Allen and Williams have been working on research related to this topic since 2011. They revealed that “the most challenging and memorable moments with this specific study were trying to figure out the logistics of running an experimental online lesson with students from all over the country.” The two were not completely sure that a short module covering religion and spirituality in the workplace and how leaders handle these components would matter to the students participating. However, Allen and Williams explained, once the study started, it became clear that most students were interested in the topic and “their interest grew once they were exposed to the lesson” and they began to feel more confident working through issues of religion and spirituality. In the future, both Allen and Williams see that students will greatly benefit from exposure to this topic.

Registration is now open for ILA's 20th anniversary global conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity taking place 24-27 October in West Palm Beach, Florida. Register today for the conference and luncheon then, after it’s released later this year, be sure to check out the concurrent session program guide to put Allen and Williams’s session on your personal conference agenda!

Abstract of Winning Paper: As workplaces grow more culturally diverse, leadership educators have little evidence-based research to guide their teaching on the intersection of leadership, religion, and spirituality. We designed a quasi-experimental study to examine the effectiveness of a two-hour online learning module introducing undergraduate students to this topic in a nonsectarian way. Using a pre-post single group quasi-experimental design, we measured changes in students' attitudes (interest in the topic, importance to leaders, need to learn about the topic, benefits and concerns related to learning about the topic, concerns about encountering religious and spiritual differences in the workplace, self efficacy in responding to religious and spiritual issues) about this topic 3 days (n = 79) and 8 weeks (n = 30, randomly selected) after the lesson. Factor analysis revealed two central attitudes underlying students' responses along positive (interest in and openness to the topic) and negative (apprehension or fear of the issue) dimensions. Results indicate that there were significant and sustained changes in students' attitudes with increasing positive and decreasing negative perceptions. Lesson evaluations were positive, suggesting the module might be used as a model by other educators. Implications for teaching and curriculum design are explored.

For more than 50 years, SAGE has continued its legacy of making research accessible and connecting theory with practice. As the market-leading publisher for leadership, we proudly invest in innovative texts and cutting-edge digital resources. We strive to help you prepare your students to thrive in today’s organizations and be tomorrow’s global leaders. By keeping our prices affordable and offering multiple formats of our books, your students can chose the options that is right for them. Being permanently independent means we are fiercely committed to publishing the highest-quality content and partnering with the leadership community to advance positive change.


Stuart AllenStuart Allen is a Professor of Organizational Leadership at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh. Stuart previously worked as an industrial/organizational psychologist, CEO, and executive coach and trainer. His research interests include servant and transformational leadership, empowerment, nonprofit leadership, PTSD, teaching with technology, doctoral learning and teaching, and the role of religion and spirituality in the workplace and in leadership. Stuart is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. He also teaches and advises doctoral students in organizational leadership and information systems and communications programs.

Peter WilliamsPeter Williams is a Professor of Leadership, teaching in the EdD Organizational Leadership program at ACU Dallas, where he was previously Assistant Dean and Program Director. He has taught adults for over 30 years including ESL in Honduras (where he became fluent in Spanish), literacy education in state prisons, and research in doctoral leadership programs. He focuses his applied research on how adults learn, lead, and work in online, blended, and multicultural (including multi-faith) environments. Peter has consulted and trained internationally on leader development, designing online learning, and program planning. He enjoys coaching and mentoring leaders, gardening, and running.